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Learning Chinese Using the Rocket Chinese Language Course
I just finished a six day free email language course in Chinese by Rocket Languages. They send one lesson per day for six days, and if you like these, you can sign up for their thirty-one day paid course.
This Chinese language course follows the Direct Immersion Method. So, you start off at once with basic conversations in Chinese. There is accompanying Chinese audio so you can get your Chinese pronunciation right. This is extremely important—it can't be stressed enough. In a tonal language like Chinese, say something in the wrong tone and you end up changing its meaning entirely. To give an example, the word 'ma' can mean mother or horse or hemp or to curse. See? Pronouncing words wrong could get you in trouble.
Anyway, to get back to the course, the lessons are short and well-prepared. Each lesson contains a brief Chinese conversation and its English translation as well as its written script in Pinyin and Chinese characters. Pinyin, for those who don't know, is Chinese written in Romanized script with accents provided to denote the proper tones. This course does a good job of explaining basic Chinese tones and grammar as well as the sentence structure differences between Chinese and English. Vocabulary is included at the end of the lesson. Some interesting notes on Chinese culture are also included.
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The Rocket Chinese Language Lessons
The first lesson introduces you to basic Chinese greetings. The second lesson continues with this, explaining formal and informal greetings. For instance, an older person would address a younger one with an informal you or 'Nǐ', but the younger person addresses the older person with a formal you or 'Nín'. This lesson also covers what greetings to use at what time of the day. You would greet someone with "Zǎoshang hǎo" in the morning, with "Xiàwǔ hǎo" in the afternoon, and with "Wǎnshang hǎo" in the evening. For goodbye, you would say "Zaijian." Next comes a clear explanation of the four Chinese tones and when to use them. This is followed by an explanation of Chinese characters and Pinyin.
The third lesson tells you how to go about introducing yourself and tell someone where you come from. The fourth lesson expands on this. It gives a list of countries in Chinese and explains how to say you are from a particular country. You add "rén" at the end of your country. If I wanted to say I was Chinese, for example, I would say "Wǒ shì Zhōngguórén." The lesson then goes on to cover how to ask questions in Chinese and gives an amusing cultural explanation about why Chinese people talk so loudly at the end of it.
In the fifth lesson, you will learn how to tell someone that you're new to the language, so could they please talk more slowly so you can understand? The sixth and last lesson introduces you to the fifth and neutral tone in Chinese. It also explains how when different tones comes together, the tonal value of the syllables changes. Then there is a brief overview of Chinese characters and a look at Chinese sentence structures.
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Chinese Learning Experience
Overall, this was a decent enough learning experience. This is a nice basic Chinese language course. You can spend about fifteen to twenty minutes per day on each lesson and get an idea about the Chinese language. The paid thirty-one day course might be worth trying out. More information on the Rocket Chinese course is available at Learn Chinese like a Rocket with Rocket Chinese.